The WSJ Editorial Board Can’t Stand Trump’s Behavior, Either

The right leaning editorial board of the Wall Street Journal tends to say nice things about Trump when they are somewhat warranted, rather than attack him, but even they are getting sick of his juvenile behavior as reflected in yesterday’s editorial titled:  The Tale of Stormy Donald:  His willful self-indulgence catches up to President Trump.

There are tons of left leaning and centrist criticisms of Trump, but when the WSJ mirrors them, it suggests there is some sense of a common reality among those across the political spectrum.  The White House does not only look chaotic to liberals, but to thinking conservatives as well.

“Every sentient voter in 2016 understood that Donald Trump had a bad history with women. He survived politically because his opponent had spent 20 years denying or apologizing for even worse behavior by her husband. But mistakes of character tend to catch up with everyone, and that’s what is now happening with President Trump and his many women.

Stormy Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) may be a porn star and admitted liar with a shark for a lawyer, but her tale on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday still has the potential to harm Mr. Trump. That’s not because of the 2006 hookup or its mockable details. Mr. Trump denies that it happened, but then why did his lawyer Michael Cohen go to such lengths to keep it quiet before Election Day in 2016?

The problem as ever is the cover-up. The Journal broke the story earlier this year that Mr. Cohen paid Ms. Clifford $130,000 in late October of 2016 not to talk about the liaison with Mr. Trump. On Sunday Ms. Clifford agreed it was “hush money.” The legal agreement has now broken down in mutual recriminations, and Mr. Cohen insists that he paid the $130,000 on his own without any discussion or repayment from Mr. Trump.

The legal issue is whether Mr. Cohen’s payment violated campaign-finance laws by exceeding the $5,400 donation limit from any individual. John Edwards, the former Democratic vice presidential nominee, was indicted in 2011 for using illegal campaign donations to conceal news about his mistress from voters.

A jury acquitted Mr. Edwards in 2012, in part due to the complexity of campaign-finance law, but that may not matter to Robert Mueller. The special counsel is supposed to be investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election but has already gone far afield to indict Paul Manafort and Rick Gates on money-laundering charges. Don’t be surprised if he also tries to squeeze Mr. Cohen to get to Mr. Trump.

It’s impossible to predict how all of this will play out politically. Many Trump partisans will refuse to believe it or claim it’s irrelevant. But our guess is that at the margin this contributes to a growing public belief that Mr. Trump’s personal flaws are undermining his chances for a successful Presidency.

Two months ago he had emerged from a tumultuous first year with the triumph of tax reform and rising poll numbers. The strong economy had Republicans closing the gap with Democrats on who should run Congress next year. But Mr. Trump can’t resist promoting White House strife and making himself the center of political tumult.

His recent selections of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo for his security team are first rate. But Mr. Trump’s reality-TV dismissal of their predecessors was nasty and chaotic. On Friday he threatened to veto a budget bill his own staff had been negotiating for weeks—further souring voters on the GOP Congress. Doesn’t he realize that if Democrats win the House, they will vote to impeach him?

Mr. Trump can’t retain the best legal counsel because no one wants a client who ignores all advice. He wants to answer questions from Mr. Mueller but probably won’t prepare enough to avoid even accidental self-incrimination. The Stormy Daniels case is typical of Mr. Trump’s pre-presidential behavior in thinking he can, with enough threats and dissembling, get away with anything. He’s never understood that a President can’t behave that way, and this may be the cause of his downfall.”


P. S. – There has long been a split between the news division and editorial division of the WSJ.  The news division comes up with some great scoops regardless of their political impact, scoops that provide facts not necessarily supportive of their editorials.   Anyway, the above is an example of the two divisions coming together on the issue of Trump’s behavior.   I guess as he touts, in some cases he is a unifier.

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Michael Avennati, Game Playing and Public Opinion

While I still think Stephanie Clifford is much more honest than Donald Trump (a low bar I know), her lawyer, Michael Avennati, undermined the power of that contrast by trying to get too cute regarding the 60 Minutes interview with Clifford yesterday.

Last week he popped up everywhere on politics TV, teasing out all sorts of possibilities of what Stormy would reveal Sunday, implying hard evidence would be displayed.   It turned out no hard evidence was produced and the only thing significantly new was her assertion that a man physically threatened her in a parking garage if she didn’t shut up about Trump.  No proof was given, so how do we know she didn’t make that up?

In the court of public opinion it comes down to whether you tend to believe her or not.  Does she deserve credit for standing up to Trump, or is she just playing us a long as Trump regularly tries to do.

I feel played and I feel pissed.

You can’t project yourself as a truth teller and then offer no proof and/or little in the way of new information, especially after hyping the appearance for days.

Being known as a “porn star” provides a couple of strikes against Clifford’s character to begin with.  Implying goods would be revealed and then holding them back Sunday further diminishes trust in her and her arguments.

I don’t want to hear anything more from either of them unless it is accompanied with the hard evidence they keep implying they have.

Truth and Lies: Stormy Daniels vs. Donald Trump

I’m writing about Stephanie Clifford (a. k. a. Stormy) because, foremost, she is the only topic in Trumptopia that makes me smile.   Secondly, every other topic I can think of is too complex and/or given to too much speculation.  The speculation is more contained with Stephanie’s issue.   It boils down to who is telling the truth, and it looks like Trump won’t get away with this lie as he has with so many others.  Ironically, Stephanie is a real person known by a fake name, while Trump is a fraud known by his real name.   But not always, as we soon shall see.

As you probably know, Stephanie had an affair with Trump a few years before the election and was paid $130 grand shortly before the voting to hush up about it.  Of course, as with any of his sexual indiscretions (big and small) he denies it ever happened and denies he knew anything about the hush money paid by a long time personal lawyer Michael Cohen.  The fly in the ointment is their account of the story is impossible to believe, unless you have stopped thinking altogether, reminding me of an old Scottish aphorism:  “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”

True, Trump has been a Houdini in escaping a multitude of previous webs, but I’m betting Stephanie can be the one to nail him.   Way before Mueller gets around to it.  If the affair never happened, why did Cohen pay Stephanie all that money?   All I’ve heard from Cohen is, yes, he paid the money, but no Trump didn’t know and the affair never happened to begin with.   Ah……could you run that explanation by me again?

Also, why would Trump’s organization and Cohen now be threatening to sue Clifford for $20 million for things they fear she might expose on 60 Minutes this Sunday and who knows when and where afterwards?

As Clifford’s lawyer, Michael Avenatti has described the whacky scenario in a tweet:   “How can President Trump seek $20 million in damages against my client based on an agreement that he (Trump) and Mr. Cohen claim he never was a party to and knew nothing about?”

Avenatti says they aren’t afraid of Trump’s threats, as they argue the non-disclosure agreement was invalid because Trump never signed it, not even signing in the blank space over his alias in the suit, David Dennison.  My guess is they thought if Trumped signed it (bring in the hand writing experts), he couldn’t completely deny knowing about it, even if he signed Santa Clause.

I’m smiling thinking of this, as Clifford and Avenatti appear to have Cohen and Trump caught in their own twisted web, beating them at their own manipulative game.  Avenatti  has been making the political talk show circuit implying all sorts of goodies Stephanie has to share with us Sunday, offering up a lie detector test she passed in 2011 as an appetizer.

You may have noticed, I have avoided the terms “porn star” or the somewhat less derogative “adult film star” in reference to Ms. Clifford because the more I’ve read about her the more respect I feel.  She seems smart and tough and brave.  Sure she welcomes the money and attention but, unlike Trump, if she wins this game it is because her claims are based on facts and honesty, in contrast with Trump’s success formula, a web of deceit spun over years.

If she triumphs, it will help the legal cases against Trump of  a former Apprentice contestant and a former playboy model, not to mention those dozen plus women who accused Trump of molesting them prior to the election, tossed aside because Trump denied the claims of all of them.   And the press let them fall by the wayside, too busy combating Trump’s latest lies after he became president.

It all fits so well in the upside down world of Trumptopia whereby the porn star is actually the one who can be trusted while the president can not be.


P. S. –  Want to know a little more about Ms. Daniels?  Go here.

North Korea, Stormy Daniels and this and that….

So many, so many possible topics, so let’s just take a glance at a few ongoing sagas…

Since it touches upon the prospect of nuclear war, let’s begin with North Korea, which is acting like it wants to develop its relationship with South Korea (you know, their athletes marching together at the Olympics, etc.).  NO KO and SO KO are setting up a hot line between their two nation heads and will have talks in upcoming weeks which may lead to talks including the U. S.

It sounds good, but NO KO has made peaceful overtures over the years, which wound up stalling periods while they continued to develop nuclear weapons. Perhaps the Trump crazy persona has prompted Jong UN to reconsider…………but more likely it is a clever ploy by UN, buying time and perhaps splitting our relationship with SO KO.

Stormy Daniels is a picayune topic, but much more fun, unless you are Donald J. Trump. The porn star/adult film actress (depending on how much you want to go “tisk, tisk”) refuses to go away.  It looks like she will become a bigger pain to the president as she is suing for the right to tell her story arguing the non-disclosure agreement is invalid as Trump never signed it.

Even if she must give the $130,000 back, she will undoubtedly make much more in appearance fees and likely some sort of book deal.  It should be fun to watch her buzzing around nipping at Trump like a clever mosquito.  Rumors say she has some photos she’d like to share.

The really big topic of gun control can wait, as Congress is slowly muddling through various proposals, never knowing what Trump would actually sign.  Meanwhile, some interesting reactions from business, in that two big sellers of guns, Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods, have established more restrictions on their own gun sales.  Also, numerous large corporations have stopped giving NRA members special discounts.

Of course, the drivers for ongoing work on this issue are the high school students organizing a big March in Washington later this month, and various walkouts at schools throughout the country.  And undoubtedly other events I don’t know about.  Of course Congress will do as little as possible, most thinking of how it will affect voting in the fall elections.  A hefty dose of determined idealism from the young adults gives me some hope the NRA won’t completely tip the balance as usual.

Speaking of changes, the White House just lost its 16th high level administrator when Gary Cohn, White House chief economic adviser, resigned.  Some kind of record exodus I think.   Cohn resigned after Trump refused to take back his suddenly announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, a move that has lots of critics besides Cohn, and few defenders.

For one, it could ignite a trade war, especially with Canada and Mexico, the two biggest exporters of those goods to us.  For another, there are a lot more people working in industries here that use those metals as opposed to those that mine them.  Tariffs will prompt price hikes that make their products less competitive.  Any employment gains in steel production seem likely overshadowed by losses in the steel using industries.

No matter to Trump as it is a great distraction from other issues and makes him look good when he goes to Pennsylvania soon to give a campaign speech in a steel producing area.  It is a complex matter, but no reason to say more yet, as Trump could completely rework this as it suits him.

And of course there is the Mueller investigation, which keeps coming up with more indictments and/or agreements for witness testimony.   Trump must be having some nightmares of looking around and seeing the terminator steadily moving towards him.

What else?  Remember the week the was supposed to be infrastructure week?  Well, forget it.  Nothing has happened there and doesn’t seem likely to before the election.   It looked like a bad idea at the time and has lost its impetus for now.

Speaking of delay, DACA comes to mind.  Since it will be tied up in the courts for months, my bet is Congress will do little or nothing for months.  Also being delayed are major steps to combat Russian interference in our election this fall.  Trump pretends otherwise with talk of a comprehensive study of the matter under way, but no specific actions and fall not far away.

Criminal, I say.  Criminal.

Feb 28, 2018: A Particularly Bizarre Day in Trumptopia

I was not going to post for a few days to let a number of issues develop, but there were so many odd political occurrences yesterday I wanted to give it a little attention, so I’m sharing a tweet from Sam Stein, politics editor for the Daily Beast, just to give you a taste of the day (I added a few words in blue for clarity).

Stein captured Trump’s day thus:   Between calling his AG Jeff Sessions “DISGRACEFUL;”  Agreeing to a liberal fantasy of gun reform in a televised bi-partisan meeting in the White House; losing his comms director Hope Hicks; watching his son-in-law Jared Kushner chewed up by devastating news reports; and seeing Special Counsel Mueller hone in on his attempts to fire Sessions;  it’s just your average day in Trumpland.”

I’d say Stein is employing understatement. Even for Trump this was a bit much.  All of these occurrences will give rise to more and more stories which  undoubtedly will compete for attention with new or renewed “breaking news” to the point of our bewilderment and/or just tuning out altogether with our excuse being you can’t believe anybody.  For me the worst thing Trump has done is to turn the already murky world of political reality into a blinding sleet storm.

Amidst the mental muck I will try to focus on what happens with the gun reform issue.  Most likely not much.  Recall how Trump had a similar meeting about DACA on a Tuesday in January wherein he appeared open and even eager to make a deal, but by Thursday he reversed his position, obviously influenced by his base and advisers.  The “Tuesday Trump” or the “Thursday Trump”  has become a byword for a Trump-about-face, I think coined by Republican Senator Lindsay Graham.

So we’ve seen the “Tuesday Trump” on gun reform and now we have to wait and see what the “Thursday Trump” has to say.  Most likely he will pull back from every positive thing he said about gun reform that the NRA doesn’t like.  It might boil down to bump  stocks being passed, as the NRA doesn’t seem to mind that.

I’ll get back to you.


P. S. – Trump says or does so many odd things that we tire of pointing them out, but that only makes his craziness our reality.  Trump must fundamentally be a coward, as he is always indicating how brave he is, like the other day when he asserted that unlike that “cowardly” security guard he would have run into that school even if he didn’t have a gun.  Who else would pat himself on the back for something he has only fantasized?

That is the sort of thing that truly the brave, like a Medal of Honor recipient, would never, ever say about himself, the kind of thing only someone with a lot of self-doubt would say.  And then what does he do?   Yesterday he puffs himself up more by teasing some of the Congress people about being afraid of the NRA, when he has been completely cowed by them until his “brave” words yesterday which he has plenty of time to take back.

One might say he lacks the courage of his convictions, but then he has no convictions, only a fantasy of himself.